Identifying Well-Connected Opinion Leaders for Informal Health Promotion: The Example of the ASSIST Smoking Prevention Program.
Holliday J., Audrey S., Campbell R., Moore L.
Methods used to select opinion leaders for informal behavior change interventions vary, affecting the role they adopt and the outcomes of interventions. The development of successful identification methods requires evidence that these methods achieve their aims. This study explored whether the "whole community" nomination process used in the ASSIST smoking prevention program successfully identified "peer supporters" who were well placed within their school social networks to diffuse an antismoking message to their peers. Data were collected in the United Kingdom during A Stop Smoking in Schools Trial. Behavioral data were provided at baseline and post intervention by all students. Social network data were provided post intervention by students in four control and six intervention schools. Centrality measures calculated using UCINET demonstrate that the ASSIST nomination process successfully identified peer supporters who were more socially connected than others in their year and who had social connections across the entire year group including the program's target group. The results indicate that three simple questions can identify individuals who are held in high esteem by their year group and who also have the interpersonal networks required of opinion leaders to successfully disseminate smoke-free messages through their social networks. This approach could be used in other informal health promotion initiatives.